Reader Question: “How to improve my son’s timing?”

 

Josh Donaldson Timing Interview with Sean Casey

Josh Donaldson talking to Sean Casey in an interview about timing. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

In this post, I wanted to tease out the adjustment tactics discussed by US Marine Col. Mark Coast in this case study post on how to take well timed practice swings into game at-bats.

(And by the way, Col. Coast has a college background in Physics and Engineering. He’s currently a Tactical and Firearms Training Specialist for Navy Seal and Marine snipers)…

But before I get into what’s in the above video, I want you to watch the following of Josh Donaldson explaining his approach to timing with Sean Casey:

Now, leg kick or no leg kick, the point I want my hitters to get is there MUST be some sort of ‘FLOAT’, which I get into more detail in my video above.

Notice how Donaldson connects music to rhythm.  He mentions the ‘flow’ of Manny Ramirez in the box…I actually tried to copy this as well when I was playing.

Josh Donaldson is one of the first elite hitters I’ve seen (Bautista does a good job too) to break down what he’s actually doing, and not what he thinks he’s doing.

In my video above, we’ll cover:

  • 3-5 swing rounds,
  • Game intensity swings,
  • Using the Hitting Outcome Evaluation Checklist,
  • Minimal coaching feedback & okay to make mistakes,
  • Tactical: Float & Fall or (Ride & Stride), and
  • Tactical: Varied Reaction LIVE Toss Timing Drill.

Like Jose Altuve, You Can Compete With BIG Sluggers…

 

Jose Altuve Hitting Analysis

Look at Jose Altuve’s ‘bat lag’ and weight off the back foot. Photo courtesy: Melissa Phillip / Houston Chronicle

In doing Jose Altuve hitting analysis, here’s what I hear…

“Well, he’s a big hitter, that’s why he can hit for power”…

…Is the EXCUSE from coaches who’re removing any responsibility to help their smaller hitters hit the ball farther and harder.

Or, oftentimes I hear this about a hitter like Dustin Pedroia (5’9″, 175-lbs – these numbers are fudged “up” btw):

“He’s just gifted.”

Wa?!!

ALL Major Leaguers are GIFTED!!! lol

Tell me one physical advantage that Dustin Pedroia has over most…??!

Don’t say eye hand coordination or vision because that’s another common rebuttal.

There are countless other MLB hitters with the same superior eye-hand coordination and vision.

The reality is, smaller sluggers MUST be MORE effective, in order to compete with sluggers bigger than them.

Now, this Jose Altuve hitting analysis post isn’t about the ‘laser show’…however,

Standing in at 5’6″,

…and weighing in at a soaking wet 165-pounds, we’ll look at Jose Altuve (his height and weight numbers are a little closer to reality I think).

Although,

I do think Jose Altuve has one thing over the ‘laser show’, and that’s dancing (parental guidance is recommended 😉:

In this Jose Altuve hitting analysis video, we’ll go over:

  • Jose Altuve stats,
  • Presents of Forward Momentum (FoMo)?
  • How well he dominates the plane of the pitch,
  • Where his power comes from, and
  • Does he practice Pitch Recognition?

FYI: the pitch Jose Altuve is hitting in the video analysis looks like an 87-mph FB straight down broadway, and it does look like he’s on-time.

Without further adieu, here are the notes for the…

 

Jose Altuve Hitting Analysis Stats (the averages of averages)

CLICK HERE for the FanGraphs.com post  I pulled the following stats from*:

  • ISO = +20 points
  • BABIP = +34 points
  • GB% = +4%
  • LD% = +1%
  • FB% = -6%
  • HR/FB% = -3.5%

(*a (+) denotes how many points OR percentage points or above league average, and a (-) denotes below league average.)

 

Presents of Forward Momentum (FoMo)?

  • Is FoMo present?
  • Shifting foot pressure (mentioned landing with closed front foot), and
  • Moving Center of Gravity (COG).

 

How Well he Dominates the Plane of the Pitch

  • Knee Action – ‘getting shorter’ and ‘staying shorter’
  • Barrel Plane – keeping barrel on plane for as long as possible

 

Where his Power Comes from…

  • Showing numbers,
  • Hiding hands from the pitcher,
  • Hunch – Posterior Pelvic Tilt (PPT), and
  • Down shoulders? (not so much here).

 

Does he Practice Pitch Recognition?

My friend Aaron Miles, who was small (5’8″, 180-lbs), and played 9 years in the Bigs, talks about how his High School coach was forward thinking…in that he did Pitch Recognition training with his troops, and Aaron’s coach said he had the best PR on the team.

My hypothesis in this Jose Altuve hitting analysis is that he does some sort of PR training, OR has a God given early pitch recognition ability that allows him to hit the ball so hard, so often.

Sure, according to this Jose Altuve hitting analysis,

…Altuve may not hit over 30 homers per year, but he sure will hit a boat load of doubles, which is just as good to contributing to team wins…just look at his above average (average) ISO and BABIP scores above!

Here Is A Predictable Swing Method That Helped Lou Gehrig Hit For Both Power & Average…

 

Lou Gehrig quote

You coaches (and Lou Gehrig or “vintage swing” fans) are in for a treat…

I wanted to REVISIT a video I published on YouTube on Jun 11, 2013 for SwingSmarter.com,

That broke down the swing of Lou Gehrig,

And compared his swing to the Olympic World Record Holder of the Hammer Throw Yuriy Sedykh, from the Soviet Union, who threw 86.74 m (284 ft 634 in) at the 1986 European Athletics Championships in Stuttgart, West Germany on 30 August…according to Wikipedia.

This video has received over 22,298 views!!

Specifically in the video, I compare the following human movement principles between the two explosive athletes:

I’ve gone into these at length in the linked to HPL posts, so you can click on those to get up to speed.

But, what I wanted to do in this post was add a couple things I’ve stumbled on since doing the Lou Gehrig video in 2013.

I want you to look out for the following things in the ‘no-shirt’ swing section of the above Lou Gehrig video:

  • Lou Gehrig’s top hand finger pressure (bottom three fingers),
  • Watch for Lou Gehrig’s ’rounded upper back’ (I call this the hunched posture),
  • Check out Gehrig’s head position at impact (notice how he’s strictly adhering to the One Joint Rule, unlike Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen)

And lastly, notice how World Record holding Hammer Thrower Yuriy Sedykh uses his head to guide his body just before the throw.

 

Does the Head Guide the Body or the Other Way Around?

What Yuriy is doing during his throw is VERY similar to how competitive freestyle Motocross bikers get their body to do what they want it to do, while flying through mid-air:

  • When they do a backflip, they initiate by rocking their head back…
  • When they do a front flip, they initiate by tucking their chin to their chest…and
  • When they do a twist, they initiate by looking in the direction they want to go.

What are you Seeing in Lou Gehrig’s Swing that Allows him to Hit for both Power and Average?

Rotational Linear Hitting Mechanics: Get Rid of Old Tired Hitting Dogmas Once and For All

 

Rotational Linear Hitting Mechanics: Isn't this Bat Path?

Isn’t this diagram showing proper bat path? Both are linear!! This is part of the confusion that’s out there on the net. Diagram courtesy: BackBackBack.com

A rotational linear hitting mechanics reader question came in recently that relates well to both baseball and softball…

“What is the best to teach a rotational swing or a linear swing?”

Here’s what we’ll cover in this rotational linear hitting mechanics post:

  • Swing is both…and then some,
  • Conservation of Linear v. Angular Momentum,
  • Planes of Motion, and
  • Centripetal v. Centrifugal…

 

Swing is Both…and then Some

Even when I was wrongly teaching my hitters to ‘swing down on the ball’,

I had a gut feeling rotational linear hitting mechanics were a little of both.

It didn’t make sense to say it was one or the other.  If you find yourself thinking this, then you have an incomplete understanding of dynamic human movement.

My advice?

Get educated.

Do your homework.

Check your facts.

Test. Re-test.

With today’s access to quality information, experts, and sophisticated technology, there’s ZERO room for ‘willfully ignorant’ hitting theories.

If you aren’t growing, you’re dying.

Us coaches MUST hold ourselves to a better teaching standard.

Standards that go beyond hitting absolutes, which aren’t wrong – but incomplete.

We MUST apply human movement principles, that are validated by science, to hitting a ball.

Another word for ‘principles’ are “rules” or “guidelines”…

Think of these principles as bumpers at a bowling alley keeping the ball from plopping into the gutter.  What path the bowling ball takes between the bumpers doesn’t matter, just as long as it stays between them.

Hitting absolutes are what goes on between the bumpers.

You following me?

Human movement principles first. And how they’re applied (think video analysis) comes second.

If it’s the other way around, then we’ll have hitters burying their chins into their chests like Andrew McCutchen (see image below)…

Rotational Linear Hitting Mechanics: Andrew McCutchen breaking one-joint rule

Image courtesy: http://12075-presscdn-0-91.pagely.netdna-cdn.com/

Many of you will see this ‘chin to chest’ image and won’t find anything wrong with it, “he’s keeping his head down at impact,” you’ll say.  I’m afraid Cutch is succeeding despite this ineffective mechanic, NOT because of it.

See WHY breaking the ‘One-Joint Rule’ bleeds force at impact by CLICKING HERE.

…Or closing the gap between their rear ear and shoulder like Derek Jeter or Bryce Harper during the turn, which is a blatant breaking of the One-Joint Rule (see image below)…

Rotational Linear Hitting Mechanics: Bryce Harper Shoulders Are Ear Poison

Photo courtesy: http://districtondeck.com/

Again, Bryce Harper is succeeding despite this ineffective mechanic, NOT because of it.

In the corrective fitness world, we say ‘shoulders are ear poison’ to maximizing force and reducing the probability of injury.

So, what did I mean in the sub-title above “…and Then Some”?

That I’ll answer under the Centripetal v. Centrifugal Forces subtitle below.

Let’s get started fleshing out rotational linear hitting mechanics…

Conservation of Linear v. Angular Momentum

There are a couple great Circus Physics resources from the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) website on these two concepts (each have 2-min videos):

To prove the swing is both of these, watch a clip of Albert Pujols a wide-no stride swing, when he was with the Cardinals, which most purely rotational people point to as a good example of their ‘hitting theory’:

Like golf, you see his pelvis slide forward before he starts turning.  This is a linear move, and I call it shifting foot pressure.

His weight goes from the outside of his back foot, inside front foot…then as his pelvis shifts forward, you’ll see his weight go to the inside of his back foot, outside of front foot.

Shifting foot pressure is what I would teach my fastpitch hitters because of their compressed reaction time, similar to these Lauren Chamberlain swings:

Also note, Pujols and Chamberlain ARE NOT ‘squishing the bug’ with their back foot, another thing purely rotational ‘hitting theorists’ cling to.

Look at this more recent clip of Pujols with the Angels.  Here he employs a traditional linear stride:

Now, Ichiro Suzuki is who the purely linear ‘hitting theorists’ point to as a great example of their system. Watch this video:

You’ll see a little more linear elements to Ichiro’s swing (forward momentum and hand path), but he still starts sideways, and rotates, or turns, the center of his chest to impact.  Did you catch the keywords “rotates” or “turns”?!

Show me one hitter in the Big Leagues or Professional Fastpitch that ONLY have a linear swing…or ONLY have a rotational swing.

I guarantee you won’t find ONE.

At ANY level, I GUARANTEE you won’t find ONE baseball or softball hitter, PERIOD, that does either one or the other!!

Are you getting the rotational linear hitting mechanics idea?

 

Planes of Motion

Rotational Linear Hitting Mechanics: Planes of Motion

Planes of Motion photo courtesy: goldsgymwebsterny.wordpress.com

I did this post titled Baseball Hitting Mechanics for Youth: Straight Landing Front Leg OR Bent?

Benefit #6 in that post I sub-titled, “How Humans Change Direction & Planes of Motion”.

Under the sub-title, I talk about three main planes of motion that we move in:

  1. Front to back (Sagittal),
  2. Side to side (Frontal), and
  3. Twisting (Transverse)…

Also, I included a YouTube video of NFL wide receivers running ‘Tree Routes’.

A wide receiver running a cut route will use the 1) Front to back plane first, then when he makes his 90-degree cut, will momentarily move onto the 2) Side to side plane before getting back on and accelerating in the front to back plane.

A hitter starts off moving on the 2) Side to side plane, but as they start turning get on the 3) Twisting plane.

In order to understand rotational linear hitting mechanics clearly, we must consider putting aside our egos, and truly look at what’s going on in video analysis.

Again, principles first, application second.

Be honest.

Like few coaches that find me on social media…DO NOT fall into the same ‘willfully ignorant’ trap they do.

If you AIN’T growing, then you’re DYING.

Know this about hitters…

There is almost always some form of linear (forward) movement that precedes the twisting.  I call it getting a head start before making an explosive rotational move.

Both Pujols, Chamberlain, and Ichiro do this.

But THESE ARE THE FACTS…

The path of the bowling bowling ball down the lane may be different, but ALL three stay within the ‘bowling bumpers’.

 

Centripetal v. Centrifugal

Here’s a great video from YouTuber SciShow about the difference between Centripetal & Centrifugal Forces:

Centripetal Forces are ‘center-seeking’ and Centrifugal Forces are ‘center-fleeing’.

Here’s how the rotational linear hitting mechanics purist stack up with these two forces:

  • Purely rotational side with Centripetal Forces, and
  • Purely linear side with Centrifugal Forces…

But clearly the swing is a combination of both…and then some!

I actually say the swing is:

  • Linear at Start – hitter getting a head start before stride landing, or second phase of shifting foot pressure,
  • Rotational – hitter transfers forward into angular momentum to get barrel into the impact zone, and then
  • Linear AGAIN – after impact the hitter chases the ball with the barrel.

The last part is crucial to consistency, and is a good example of Centrifugal Force.

When talking about rotational linear hitting mechanics, I also give the swinging rock-on-a-string example in the main video above.

You see, first the hitter uses Centripetal Force to turn the barrel into the zone sideways…the turn is meant to be quick and compact from an Angular Momentum standpoint (Keeping a slight bend in the front elbow, NOT from swinging down, being short, etc.), until the barrel gets on the plane of the pitch.

Then the hitter either lets the front arm lengthen or stay shortened depending on timing and pitch location, but make no mistake…

Elite hitters will keep their barrel chasing the ball after impact, until both arms get fully extended…whereby the barrel then circles around the body during follow through.

So is it better to teach rotational liner hitting mechanics?

Yes.

As long as it’s a blend of the two.

Not one or the other.

Let human movement principles be your guide.

The path the bowling ball takes in the lane doesn’t matter, just as long as it stays between the bumpers.

Softball Hitting Drills Fastpitch For Timing: Bad Hitting Outcomes Evaluation Checklist

 

Softball Hitting Drills Fastpitch: Brandon Moss Timing Adjustment

Brandon Moss 2014 synced swings. Look at when he picks his front foot up (in relation to what point in pitcher’s delivery) when homering on a 77-mph KB off R.A. Dickey versus hitting a dinger off a 93-mph FB from Felix Hernandez. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

A softball hitting drills fastpitch reader question came in recently that relates well to baseball…

Why is Timing not taught throughout majority instructors? Great mechanics are good but without Timing principles, you just look good going back to the dugout. What are some of the different ways you would teach/describe Timing?”

Here’s what we’ll cover in this softball hitting drills fastpitch for timing post:

  • Bad Hitting Outcome Evaluation Checklist,
  • The Art of Variance: Bean Bag Study, and
  • Varied Reaction LIVE Toss Timing Drill…

 

Bad Hitting Outcome Evaluation Checklist

After each 3-5 swing round with one of my hitters, we go through a powerful 3-step Bad Hitting Outcome Eval Checklist (in order of priority):

  1. How many strikes did you swing at?
  2. How many swings felt on-time?
  3. How did we do with our mechanical focuses?

I should probably mention that we do this while working softball hitting drills fastpitch drills such as the Varied Reaction LIVE Toss Timing Drill.

I use minimal to zero feedback between swings, until the round is over.  Why minimal to zero feedback? CLICK HERE to read this post on “What Every Coach Must Know About Giving Feedback To Hitters”.

Why 3-5 swing rounds and not 15-20?  CLICK HERE to read this testimonial on how to make practice swings game ready.

And within 3-5 rounds of 5 swings each round (so 15-25 total swings), there’s a marked difference in the hitter’s plate discipline, timing, and mechanics…for the good.

And it doesn’t matter the age.

If there IS NOT a progression in their ability to swing at more strikes, get on-time, and hone effective mechanics within that swing round, then either:

  • The coach is instructing too much between swings, OR
  • The player needs a little education on their strikezone, how timing must change at the different distances, or, to take pressure off swing outcomes, and put pressure on executing a specific swing movement instead.

It must be said, that in games, coach will only focus on points one and two of the Bad Hitting Outcomes Eval Checklist.  Players MUST be free to compete in games, not worry about mechanics.

 

The Art of Variance: Bean Bag Study

So I don’t have to beat a dead horse, here are a couple resources to catch you up to speed on this:

Some of my hitting friends, whom I respect in their knowledge and experience, don’t believe we can teach timing.  I disagree however.  Not only can we teach timing, but we can SPEED UP the learning process!

Here’s one of my favorite drills for timing…

 

Varied Reaction LIVE Toss Timing Drill

Using the same principle as the Bean Bag Toss Study above, I regularly vary reaction times with our hitters.  The following video is how to setup one of my favorite softball hitting drills fastpitch for timing (works well for baseball too):

Distances, whether we’re talking baseball or softball, are different, so use common sense on this.  Depending on the hitter’s official plate to mound distance, I will put 5-15 feet of distance between the two plates.

And remember, the L-screen stays where it’s at…the HITTER moves between the two plates.

Nick Coast Stats

Hitting Lessons From A Primary Firearms and Tactical Instructor?

Nick Coast Stats

Nick Coast, Senior at Rancho Bernardo High School is crushing it, along with younger brother – and Sophomore – Alex Coast.

In this post, I want to share a testimonial from one of the dads who drove up from San Diego (about 7-hour drive to me) with his two sons, Alex and Nick, to hit with me for a weekend, about 9 months ago.

Both young men are playing at the highest level in the Open Division in the CIF San Diego Section, Rancho Bernardo High School.  Alex is a Sophomore playing J.V., and Nick is a Senior playing Varsity this year.  Nick’s Varsity Coach Sam Black, is the same one General Manager of the Oakland A’s played for.

The reason I’m sharing this is because dad, Mark Coast, has a VERY credible background in human movement science.  THIS is what caused him to reach out to me after rummaging through HPL.  The following testimonial is VERY validating to the things we teach at HPL.

Col. Mark Coast

SDSU Website for Homeland Security

Here’s the bio of Col. Mark Coast:

“I graduated from Cal State Northridge with a BS in Physics and Minor in Engineering in 1990. The same day I graduated college I was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve. Nearly 30 years later I am now a colonel in USMCR. Since the time I graduated college I have served a combination of 8 years on active duty and nearly 22 in the reserve. During that period I deployed to Iraq four times (2003-2006), retired from DEA after 20 years (1996-2016) as a Special Agent, worked a few years as an optical mechanical design engineer, Adjunct Faculty at San Diego State University (2009 to present) and now a founder of a new company Ceveal Solutions, LLC. I have been a professional trainer for over 25 years experience. First, as an artillery officer with USMC, Non-lethal Weapons Instructor #1 for the Department of Defense, and as the Primary Firearms and Tactical Instructor for DEA. I completely understand the scientific process and apply proven training techniques of integrating gross and fine motor skills with hand-eye coordination in shooting, very similar to hitting and golf.”

Now, here’s the email he recently sent, updating me on the boys’ progress this season.

It’s a little long, but don’t worry – if you stick through it – you’ll get a few golden training nuggets

Without further adieu, ENTER Col. Mark Coast…

“Joey,

I hope things are going well. I know you may not get much detailed feedback so I wanted to pass along something we learned the last couple weeks. We have been hitting like crazy and the results were good. One of the things we stressed was your recommendation of the two plate drill and it helped timing tremendously. Additionally, we worked hard on balance. We also increased reps off the pitching machine to adjust to velocity. They worked very hard to make balanced swings whether they hit or missed. This really improved their contact and consistently hitting with the same swing. However, I wanted to determine why the boys were popping up occasionally in clutch situations, which was unusual (pop ups). Thus, I set up a video camera and recorded their ABs. Here’s what I learned…
Upon review of video after games I was seeing the boys take a damn hard cut at a ball for the first couple strikes. I would notice they would take a subtle step towards the plate on the follow through. I asked them why they were taking a step in the game and not in the cage? Their response, “I want to crush the ball so I’m swinging harder during the game because we are pumped up.”Bruce Lee Adapt What is Useful Quote
I told them, this comes down to discipline and training. You play like you practice and practice like you play. You either swing like that in the cage or don’t do it in the game. They said they wanted to swing hard like that in the cage, but they couldn’t swing that hard for 10 pitches. I said that is exactly why Joey wants you to limit your swings to 3-5 reps.
They were very resistant to that because they “get in a rhythm” and like hitting for 10-12 reps. I told them it was reinforcing bad habits for game situations. The light bulb went on for them!
Nick has taken physics already and we drew a static diagram of a harder swing and asked him to show me and Alex where his barrel head will be when he swings with a larger angular velocity. He figured out the bat created a larger moment arm from his center of gravity [COG]. He realized his COG moved toward the plate (causing the slight step) and causing his barrel head to drop slightly causing the pop ups or foul tips.
They realized game time ABs creates adrenaline pumps and they swing harder in games and don’t train with the same intensity in the cages, thus missing balls low. They NEVER drive a ball into the ground with less than two strikes! Always swinging harder than the cage during the game. However, they are damn good two strike hitters when they purposely dial back their swings with 2 strikes.
BTW, Nick has only 6 K’s on the season and Alex has 2 K’s. They rarely miss a pitch. Again, these boys are playing at the highest level in the Open Division in the CIF San Diego Section. BTW, not too bad on defense too. Nick has a 1.000 fielding percentage as a catcher and .800 caught stealing rate. Alex only has one E playing the corners.
Experiment: Go into the cage and take full momentum swings for no more than 3 reps and rotate for three rounds.
Hypothesis: Their barrel heads would be under the ball in the first round. Second round they would apply bold adjustment method (standard artillery round adjustment method); swing below, above and then split the difference. Third round they will have taught themselves how much they need to raise their barrels heads to square up balls when swinging as hard as they can.Struggle in Today Developing Strength for Tomorrow Quote
Results: It went exactly as predicted. They rebalanced with the harder swing by moving their hips out (away from the plate).  CLICK HERE for the results during the games (Max Preps screen shots through today). They are absolutely crushing the ball. Nick is tied for leading doubles on his team, moved to hitting in the 5 hole. Alex similar results.
The last couple weeks they are coming through in clutch situations. Just this week, Nick walk off single in one game and lead off double to score winning run. Alex on Wed (btm of 12th) lead off double and was the winning run. Varsity coach (Billy Beane’s HS coach Sam Black) said, damn the Coast boys are killing it and starting game ending rallies.
Last year when we came to you in Fresno, Nick was hitting .111 (popping most everything up). Alex was similar. Now they realize how to replicate their game swings. They are disciplined with their training of limiting reps to 3-5 per round. Their friends are now adapting this training method. I think it’s ironic “The Factory” has kids coming over to hit in the cage at our house and adapting to your scientific approach to hitting. It is so cool to watch them adapt to technology and the collected scientific evidence and apply it effectively to the most difficult task in sports. I know when they coach later in life they will be better coaches. Thanks again for all your support and continued success.
Thanks,  Mark”
In addition, Col. Mark Coast added this to one of my replies…
“When their teammates see the results on the field they do not argue with success they just want to duplicate it. It’s funny how many boys are now asking them and me what are they doing other than hitting. I keep telling them it’s not the quantity, but the quality of the reps. It’s the same stuff I teach my students with shooting pistols, rifles or cannons. Spray and pray is not a method. Putting a single calculated round downrange is all the matters. The same in hitting. One well placed ball is all that matters. They are old enough to be believers now. If you want to see two snippets of video of Nick you can go to his web site on MaxPreps and see his walk off hit and a double he hit Wed. I’m in the process of getting Alex’s video from Wed uploaded too.
Keep up the great work! I don’t know how often you get feedback as scientific as mine, but I hope it helps. It is a testament to your approach. Additionally, the confidence it gives them is amazing. Nick says, I have hit off and sometimes crush all these D1 commits. I know there isn’t a kid in the country I can’t hit. That’s a bold statement!”
I can’t thank Col. Coast enough for sharing this.
I always tell my hitters that I’m just a flashlight in the dark, illuminating the most effective path to being an outstanding hitter.  Ralph Waldo Emerson Principles Quote
The biggest part – I feel – is for them to do the reps.  The Coast brothers are definitely doing that, and combined with dad’s background, knowledge, and guidance…40 years from now, both boys can look back and say they did all they could to maximize their abilities.
Listen, the moral of the story is that we’re applying human movement rules, that are validated by science, to hitting a ball.  Whether we’re talking about using variance in the cage or the standard artillery round adjustment method…these are the PRINCIPLES (See RWE quote above).
Keep up the good work Coast Bros!
UPDATE #1:
About two weeks after our initial conversation, Nick Coast (Senior in H.S.) was hitting .333, and his younger brother Alex was hitting over .400 in J.V. ball.
UPDATE #2
The Monday before I published this testimonial from Col. Mark Coast, I had a dad by the name of Jeff Pope reach out to me on my Facebook fan page, asking me where I could point him to improve his son’s game swing, which in the cage were fantastic.
I told him to be patient for this post (which I published on Thursday).
And here’s Jeff’s response, the Monday following this post’s publication (he gave me the go-ahead to share with you):
“I spoke with you last week about my son bringing his bp swing to the game and he did just that, hard work in the cage and in our garage has paid off. He hit ridiculous this weekend. He hit 2 monster home runs in 4 games. Kid just turned 11 last week, can’t wait to see what he is now capable of. I believe the home run flood gates may have just opened! Thanks for the insight and knowledge.”
His reply to my attaboy comment back…
“Something clicked, like I said he’s always been a great hitter but as big and strong as he is hitting clean up i wanted more for him. Game changing more. He took on the top ranked team with a kid throwing absolute gas and he took the second pitch he saw and hit it about 270 ft over the left field wall, he caught it out front and it looked effortless. His other shot he hit was an 0-2 fastball and he hit it over the centerfield wall with his contact swing. So much fun to be apart of.”
I asked him what exact changes they made, and here’s how he responded:
“What we changed in his practice habits before the tournament he played in was the shortening of the reps going all out if you will for 3-5 reps. I have noticed before the longer we went on a bucket the better his focus and adjustments got… But the swing obviously got weaker. I did notice the short reps really made him focus on making the most of the pitches he got but also keeping his strength and bat speed up the entire time. I really tried to get him to focus on being fast and powerful on those limited swings. You normally don’t see more than 3-5 pitches per at bat which really got in his head, make the most of what you have a priority. I really stressed that he needed to play how he practiced keeping the mind set of focus and making the most of what u got. We also focused more on increasing his reps off the pitching machine using that as a great tool to incorporate that powerful swing with speed. Well he played like he practiced going yard twice, one being a 270 footer on a kid throwing gas, then another on an 0-2 count with a 2 strike swing that was still powerful enough to hit it over the wall in centerfield. Both kids threw really fast which made him faster and he took advantage. He just turned 11 last week, look forward to many more of these sessions and hopeful success to keep him playing in games how he practices…which is all out!!”
This IS NOT rocket science people!  Practice like you play, so you play like you practice.

Baseball Hitting Drills For Power That Babe Ruth WOULD BE Talking About

 

Baseball Hitting Drills for Power: Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth post impact…notice he’s not ‘squashing the bug’ with his back foot? 😉 Photo courtesy: ABCNews.com

This baseball hitting drills for power video post, featuring Babe Ruth, was recorded on Jun 11, 2013 for my old hitting site Swing Smarter Baseball Hitting Drills dot com (not online anymore).

I’m going to revisit the information in this post because…

The coaching cues I teach now are a bit different, but what hasn’t changed are the human movement principles brought to light in the analysis.

Since I created the video, it’s amassed over 52K views on YouTube.

Probably more now that you’re reading this…

And by the way, the baseball hitting drills for power tips we’ll be covering work REALLY well for softball players too.

Don’t believe me?

CLICK HERE for a recent post I did discussing how similar the baseball and softball swings are.

Be sure to read some of the comments at the end of the post, where I asked my readers who coach softball players, to share how these same human movement principles are working for their girls.

In this baseball hitting drills for power post, we’ll REVISIT and ADD information to the above video:

  • What Forward Momentum looks like in Babe Ruth’s swing,
  • How The Babe uses the Springy ‘X’ Pattern, and
  • Compare how WR holding Shot Putter Ulf Timmerman uses the same human movement principles…

 

What Forward Momentum Looks like in Babe Ruth’s Swing

I mention a few things in the video…

How The Babe seemingly throws his body (or hips) forward, making an aggressive move towards the pitched ball.

This looks very similar to a pitcher falling down the mound.

There was no ‘push off’ with his back leg, just a natural fall forward with his front leg catching him at stride landing.

In the above video, I also mention, how Babe Ruth commits his body weight forward, similar to how we walk…

A person’s body weight is shifted forward to the swing through leg, as the heel approaches the ground.

Unlike a cat taking a tentative step forward as if the ground is going to give way, we don’t walk by ‘sitting back’ at every step forward.

We walk more like dogs! Committing forward with EVERY step.

And this is WHY we shouldn’t be teaching hitters to ‘Sit back’ when hitting.  Unless of course, you want to create timid and defensive swinging hitters that WILL reach a ceiling at the lower levels.

Now, using this same Babe Ruth style fall is where baseball hitting drills for power semi-fork away from fastpitch softball hitters.

Because of a shortened pitching distance and reaction time, we’ll see forward momentum look more like Lauren Chamberlain’s shifting foot pressure in the following video:

In this video, she starts super wide with her feet, but you’ll see her shift her weight back, then forward (watch her body move away from the grounded heavy bag behind her).

This is still a form of Forward Momentum.  Just more tailored for a fastpitch hitting strategy.

In the above Babe Ruth video, I mention Un-Weighting, or the Un-Weighting Principle.

CLICK HERE for an HPL video demonstrating a test I use to get my hitters ‘buying into’ Forward Momentum benefits.

The bottom line with forward momentum is that it increases a hitter’s reaction time by giving them a head start.

It’s easier to change planes of motion when you’re already moving…rather than standing still like purely rotational hitters.

Does it take more energy to push a car when it’s already moving, or at a dead stop?

We want effortless power, NOT a powerless effort.

Are you concerned about too much head movement?

Check out these FOUR posts that address that issue:

How The Babe Uses the Springy ‘X’ Pattern

CLICK HERE for an HPL post talking about the science of tension/compression forces in the body, known as fascia.

CLICK HERE for another HPL post analyzing the swing of Adrian Gonzalez highlighting the Springy ‘X’ Pattern.

I call this piece of my hitting system the Catapult Loading System.  This online video mini-course teaches exactly how to manipulate springy fascia for repeatable power.

Here’s one of my favorite YouTube interviews with Thomas Myers, who does a GREAT job explaining the role of springy fascia in the body, so the Layman understands:

Thomas Myers authored the book Anatomy Trains, which I highly recommend as a MUST read to anyone serious about teaching hitting.  The information in his book holds the key to how hitting will be taught 5 years from now.  BELIEVE IT.

Baseball Hitting Drills For Power: Josh Donaldson Springy 'X' Pattern

Watch how Josh Donaldson manipulates the Springy ‘X’ Pattern. Photo courtesy: YouTuber PastimeAthletics & PicPlayHost

There a couple baseball hitting drills for power points I’ve recently changed, when teaching hitting, different from the information in the Babe Ruth video above (thanks Lee Comeaux for pointing these out)

  • #1 – I don’t focus on the shoulders facilitating the Springy ‘X’ Pattern anymore, but the armpits (view Josh Donaldson RED ‘X’ image to the right). This is where, as Thomas Myers puts it, the Front Arm Fascial Line passes through connecting bottom of the left hand and arm, across the chest, to the bottom of the right hand and arm.
  •  #2 – Notice how Babe Ruth seems to be ‘hunched’ over from the start of his swing into loading the Springy ‘X’ Pattern? Dr. Kelly Starrett calls this global flexion of the spine.  This allows the spine to decompress. In his book The Spinal Engine, Dr. Serge Gracovetsky talks about this ‘hunched’ posture as the Posterior Ligamentous System (PLS) turning on, which acts like a harness supporting the spine under load.  There’s less muscle activation when this happens.  Think about a fishing rod bending under the weight and energy of a fish catching bait.  This keeps the spine vertebrae safe through torsion forces.

PLEASE NOTE: the hitter still MUST show numbers and get a slight downward shoulder angle, but we’re using a better coaching cue to get the mechanical outcome.

 

Compare How WR Holding Shot Putter Ulf Timmermann uses the Same Movement Principles

Ulf Zimmermann holds the World Record in the Shot Put using the Glide technique.

Check out his World Record throw on September 22nd, 1985 at a distance of 22.62 meters (about 25 yards):

What a BEAST!  By the way, that iron cannonball he just tossed, almost the quarter length of a football field, weighs 16-pounds!!

Three eerily similar baseball hitting drills for power tips you’ll find with Ulf Timmermann’s record breaking ‘Glide’ technique and Babe Ruth’s swing are:

  1. Ulf Timmermann gets his weight aggressively moving forward with a combination of back leg push off and front leg ‘reaching’ momentum.  What Ulf does with his front leg is similar to a Broad Jumper using their arms to build momentum before a jump.
  2. You also see Ulf Timmermann employing the same Springy ‘X’ Pattern, however more extreme than The Babe (track his compressed armpit and opposing hip).  Ulf is more extreme with the ‘turn in’ because Babe Ruth still has to keep his eyes forward to hit a ball coming towards him, whereas Ulf has the freedom to look away from his target.
  3. You also see both Ulf and The Babe ‘getting shorter’ before exploding rotationally (compare knee bend). They’re both using Ground Reaction Forces very well.

CLICK HERE for a baseball hitting drills for power video post I did outlining the ‘Back Eye Test’, so hitters don’t turn in too much, like Ulf.

A Couple Interesting Tid-Bits from YouTube Video Comments

  • “Excellent video. I recommend everyone read The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs. You will be even more amazed with his achievements.” – YouTube user: Gto1927
  • One commenter said this video shows why The Babe hit for so much power, but also struck out A LOT. However, Baseball-Reference.com puts Babe Ruth’s 162-game batting average at .342 with 86 strikeouts per year. How about Chris “Crush” Davis? Same numbers: .255 BA & 200 K’s/year.  I don’t think The Babe struck out that much…what do you think? 😉

“I Have Several Young Hitters That Are Great In Baseball Batting Cages But Have Trouble Transitioning Those Techniques Into Game Situations.  How Do I Teach That?”

 

CINCINNATI, OH – JULY 9: Anthony Rizzo #44 of the Chicago Cubs hits a solo home run in the third inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on July 9, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

In this baseball batting cages strategy video, we answer the reader question above.

(By the way, this information is applicable to softball as well.)

We’ll go over:

  • Over-coaching OR giving instruction during games,
  • Promoting focused quality OR unfocused quantity swings at practices, and
  • Training timing, plate discipline, and pitch recognition.

PLEASE NOTE: this is a complex issue, and to do the subject any justice, a 30-minute video and 4,000+ word post would suffice.

However, I don’t have that time after adding a newly minted baby girl to our family.

So, I urge coaches to PLEASE contribute your comments at the end of this post, in the “Comments” section, of any other factors and/or fixes that I may have missed you think contribute to a successful transition from baseball batting cages (including softball coaches) to game at-bats.  Many THANKS in advance!

Without further adieu, I’m going to hit the BIG three I think are the primary causes to the above coach’s challenge…

 

Over-Coaching OR Giving Instruction During Games

CLICK HERE to read this HPL post on what every coach needs to know about giving feedback to hitters.

From the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) website…

Mike Brey, the head Notre Dame men’s basketball coach, says ‘don’t coach every dribble’ in the following video:

3 things Coach Brey brings up about how to give feedback:

  1. Talk about something they did good,
  2. Then bring up some of the mistakes they made, and end with…
  3. Highlighting something they did good, again.

I call this tactic the constructive feedback sandwich.

Coach Tony LaRussa mentions, in his book One Last Strike, the ‘Pat & Pop’ Method of giving feedback to his players. The ‘Pat’ is the pat on the back (what they’re doing right), and the ‘Pop’ is the pop in the mouth (calling attention to the mistakes they made).

Men’s Notre Dame basketball Coach Mike Brey also mentions the WORST thing you can do is have a player looking at the “bench” after every play…or the dugout…or down the third base line.

Legendary baseball coach at Fresno State, Bob Bennett, who was my coach for three years, would sit in his chair at the clubhouse end of the dugout during games, with one leg crossed over the other, taking notes the whole game.  He would rarely offer mechanical changes to players.

He just let us compete.  During games, Coach Bennett focused his time on making situational game decisions.

It was at practice the notes he took during games – of the mistakes we made – would come to life.  CLICK HERE for an audio interview I did with Coach Bennett over lunch.

So ask yourself the following question,

If you feel your players (or hitters) aren’t transitioning their swing from the baseball batting cages to game at-bats…

Are you over-coaching (‘coaching EVERY dribble), and/or giving instruction during games?

YES/NO?

Promoting Focused Quality OR Unfocused Quantity Swings at Practice

Baseball Batting Cages: Principle of Specificity (Milo of Croton)

Milo of Croton’s body had to adapt (get stronger) to the demands put on it by the growing bull. Photo courtesy: miloandthecalf.com

Training MUST fit the sport’s objective.

In weight training, this is called the Principle of Specificity.  Specificity according to FitStar.com:

“Specificity is the principle of training that states what you do in the gym should be relevant and appropriate to your desired outcome.”

During a baseball or softball game, a pitch is thrown once every 10-20 seconds.

A hitter may see THREE strikes in an at-bat, and may accumulate FOUR at-bats per game, so they may see TWELVE good pitches to swing at per game.

True, not all strikes are in the strike zone at the lower levels, but my point is, swing opportunities are lower in games.

So, am I saying to ration out swings to hitters at practice?

No, not at all.

I’m suggesting a change in coaching paradigm.

What I’m saying is, swings in baseball batting cages MUST be trained with focused quality, not with unfocused quantity.

Baseball batting cages training MUST prioritize the following:

  • Plate discipline FIRST (are we swinging at strikes, YES/NO?),
  • Timing SECOND (are we on time, YES/NO?), and
  • Mechanics THIRD (are we swinging effectively, YES/NO?)

After each five swing round, I ask my hitters these three questions…and it’s rare that I get a hitter regressing after 3-5 rounds of focused quality hacks.  Training MUST be more challenging (and frustrating), than game at-bats.

In games, hitters MUST NOT worry about mechanics, just make sure they’re swinging at strikes and getting on-time.  Competing.  Mechanics are for working on at practice or outside of game AB’s.

Free swinging batting practice, although fun as heck, does NOTHING for producing quality game at-bats.

What mechanics are considered effective versus ineffective?

CLICK HERE for a post I did answering that, in addition to how to get hitters buying into this system.

What’s an example of a baseball batting cages drill that is ineffective training for game at-bats?

Rapid fire soft toss.

WHY?

Because a hitter NEVER has to swing like this in a game!

Please go revisit the definition of the Principle of Specificity above.

The coaching rebuttal to the Rapid Fire Soft Toss Drill is, “But we’re working on quick hands”.

Okay, so if the objective of a pitcher was to throw three balls one after the other in quick succession, then rapid fire soft toss would work.

However, this isn’t how pitches are thrown in games work…

Pitchers throw one pitch every 10-20 seconds.  Not three pitches every 10-20 seconds.

Game swings are NOT about quick hands.  They’re about timing.  One of the pitcher’s objective is to disrupt this.  If a hitter is behind…they’re late…and THEIR TIMING IS OFF!!

In other words, it may not be a mechanical issue.

Please stay far away from this drill…

Sure, their hands or bat speed may be slow because of something like bat drag, but I’m here to tell you that the Rapid Fire Soft Toss Drill WILL NEVER help bat drag.  This coach would be throwing gasoline on a fire, mechanically.

This is why fixing ineffective hitting mechanics add more reaction time to a hitter, because when a hitter moves better, they perform better.

Effectiveness is doing the right things, and efficiency is doing those things right.

Look, coaches have to understand the principles before coming up with the methods for fixing.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said this about principles:

“The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”

Remember, our hitting objective priorities are:

  1. Plate discipline,
  2. Timing, and then
  3. Mechanics.

A hitter’s mechanics may be clean, but NOT swinging at strikes and NOT being on time WILL cause a mechanical breakdown…no matter how clean the mechanics.

So ask yourself the following question,

If you feel your players (or hitters) aren’t transitioning their swing from the baseball batting cages to game at-bats…

In baseball batting cages are you promoting focused quality OR unfocused quantity swings?

YES/NO?

Which leads me to the topics of…

 

Training Timing, Plate Discipline, and Pitch Recognition

Baseball Batting Cages: Joey Votto

Joey Votto is one of the best with plate discipline. Photo courtesy of Red-Hot-Mama.com

In this section, I have a lot of HPL resources for you, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel here…

TIMING

PLATE DISCIPLINE

The post above is more advanced and is what I learned from Fresno State head baseball coach Mike Batesole my senior year in 2003.  Btw, he was the head coach at Fresno State when the Bulldogs won the College World Series in 2008.

However, I recommend the strategy mentioned in the Matt Holliday link to the college level on up.  High School coaches can experiment with it, typically when facing higher functioning pitchers.  The challenge with it is that most pitchers at the lower levels aren’t as skilled at consistently placing pitches where they want them.

So, my recommendation for the lower levels is to focus on whether they swinging at strikes or not.  Make it simple.  Talk about the strike zone.  What’s a good pitch to hit and what is not.

PITCH RECOGNITION

So ask yourself the following question,

If you feel your players (or hitters) aren’t transitioning their swing from the baseball batting cages to game at-bats…

In baseball batting cages are you training timing, plate discipline, and pitch recognition?

YES/NO?

Coaches, PLEASE contribute anything I may have missed in regard to factors and/or fixes you feel contribute to a successful transition from baseball batting cages (including softball) to game at-bats.

Again, MANY thanks in advance!

How To Turn Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics Into A High Level Baseball Swing…Can It Be Done?

 

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics

Can fastpitch softball hitting mechanics be equal to baseball?

(WARNING: this fastpitch softball hitting mechanics post is a mini-RANT, about 2,000+ words, so please set aside about a 10-min reading time)…

I received this email the other day:

“I cringe when see hitting programs that are designed by baseball players and say they teach softball hitting as a 17 year fastpitch softball coach and 26 year slow pitch player the fundamental difference in the swing many programs ignore especially when teaching fastpitch the swing has to take the most direct path to the pitched generally released at 3 to 4 feet verse a baseball is released at roughly 7 such as right view pro I’ve seen many teams and worse players swings destroyed by coaches teaching baseball to softball players please take this in account, thanks”

Before addressing this reader’s email, I wanted to mention something for those who teach fastpitch softball hitting mechanics…

Later in the post, I want to make a BIG ASK to coaches and instructors currently working with fastpitch softball hitters that are using HPL hitting principles, to please share your triumphs and/or sticking points with us.

But before we get there,

I wanted to address a couple fastpitch softball hitting mechanics points from the email above:

  • Translating baseball into fastpitch softball hitting mechanics,
  • Differences between the two swings?
  • The BIG ASK…

 

Translating Baseball into Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics: Who To Trust?

Who can we trust to give effective information when searching “fastpitch softball hitting mechanics” on YouTube?

The BIGGEST problem with most self-proclaimed “baseball hitting experts” online is…

They promote a hitting ‘philosophy’ or ‘theory’.

Their theories are a mish-mash of popular hitting programs, books, websites, YouTube channels, etc.

Did you know…

There’s a more certain standard – or measuring stick – that most hitting experts ignore, or just plain don’t understand?

Hitting MUST be based off human movement principles, or rules, that are validated by science…NOT philosophy or theory.

We’ve reverse engineered the hitting system promoted at the Hitting Performance Lab.

What does that mean?

Good news for coaches teaching fastpitch softball hitting mechanics…

You can bring a certain and more effective hitting standard to teaching your athletes how to hit.

And it WORKS a majority of the time!!

Beautifully.

Do you remember the first time you stumbled into an online hitting forum, discovering how much of a pissing contest it was?

The people who “seemed” to have authority on the subject of fastpitch softball hitting mechanics were coaches who:

  • Had coached the longest,
  • Had played the longest OR had the biggest collection of trophies at the highest level, or
  • Had watched a million hours of slow motion video of ONLY ‘the best’ hitters.

Note to those who’ve coached the longest…

Someone belligerently throwing 30+ years of coaching experience in your face, most likely has the same one year of coaching experience repeated each year for 30+ years.  If you’re not growing, you’re dying.  And if you have to talk about how many years you’ve been coaching to desperately seek significance, then most likely your teaching has been obsolete for some time now.

You don’t hear Coaches Augie Garrido, Gordie Gillespie, or Bob Bennett lurching around online forums shoving their weight around demanding that people listen and respect them.

Note to those who’ve played the longest or have the biggest collection of trophies at the highest level…

The same lurching ego behavior can be seen, and is being used by you too.

As a matter of fact,

I just ran into an ex-pro guy last night on Facebook (I assume he was because he said he has a helluva playing resume, lol).

Brother, I hate to tell you, but…

Playing and teaching are totally different skills sets.  I don’t care what your playing resume is, because you’re starting over as a coach.

Furthermore, you MUST teach the RIGHT things.  The right fastpitch softball hitting mechanics.

Just because you ‘swung down on the ball’ to create backspin, DOES NOT mean that’s what actually happened if we looked at your swing using slow motion video.

I’m sorry, but what’s ‘feel’ and what’s ‘real’ are two totally different things.

Note to those coaches who accumulated a million hours watching slow motion video of ONLY ‘the best’ hitters…

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics: Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols photo courtesy: MLB.com

First of all, who are you studying??!

Pujols? McGwire? Griffey Jr.? Bryce Harper? Derek Jeter?

Although these hitters are and were effective in their swings, they also have, and had, ineffective human movement.  I’m sorry, but what’s ‘feel’ and what’s ‘real’ are two totally different things. that MUST not be repeated by younger and/or smaller hitters.

Not just because younger hitters don’t have the capability of doing them, but because THEY SHOULD NOT be doing them, PERIOD.

In other words, they succeed, and succeeded, DESPITE elements of ineffective mechanics, NOT because of them.

Who you study is VERY important.

Big sluggers can get away with murder because of their body mass.  Think of some of the BIGGER hitters you’ve come across, swimming in the fishbowl that is a Little League baseball field.

You’ll learn more of what effective fastpitch softball hitting mechanics look like from smaller sluggers like (6-feet on down):

  • Sierra Romero
  • Lauren Chamberlain
  • Sadaharu Oh (if you don’t know who this is, you need to study up!!),
  • Hank Aaron,
  • Pete Rose,
  • Ty Cobb,
  • Josh Donaldson,
  • Dustin Pedroia,
  • Jose Bautista,
  • Andrew McCutchen, and
  • Robinson Cano.

AND by the way, video analysis is important,

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics: Sierra Romero

Sierra Romero is a great model for the Catapult Loading System. Photo courtesy: fastpitchnews.org

But MUST come SECOND ONLY to the human movement “rules”.

Now listen close, because this is IMPORTANT to translating fastpitch softball hitting mechanics into baseball…

Once we strip away a coach/player’s elevated credentials and/or experience, then look at their analysis through the lens of human movements “rules”, that are validated by science, and it’s revealed how inconsistently ineffective their teachings really are.

They soften their system’s ineffectiveness by saying,

“Well, every hitter is different and what works for one hitter may not work for another”…OR,

“You can’t teach young hitters to do what MLB hitters are doing.”

BULL.

They’re copping-out.

But it’s not their fault.

They just don’t know any better.

They’re not growing, they’re dying.

And if you believe that what works for one hitter may not work for another, then CLICK HERE to read about the HPL One-Swing-Fits-All system.

The HPL hitting system works…consistently, no matter if we’re talking fastpitch softball hitting mechanics or baseball…7yo or 24yo…black or white…big or small.

We have literally thousands of coaches and parents across the nation putting into practice the HPL hitting principles, and get this…THEY ACTUALLY WORK!!

I get a steady stream of weekly emails, from coaches, sharing their success stories with the system from both the baseball and softball worlds.

(If you go to the HPL homepage, scroll all the way down to the bottom, and you’ll find over 45 rotating testimonials from these coaches and players under “Customer Testimonials”.  It rotates through 5 of them at a time, then if you refresh the screen, then it’ll rotate through another 5).

The good news for the fastpitch softball hitting mechanics coach, is that credentials don’t mean a thing.

It’s outcomes.

Does your system consistently work?

Do you have a:

  1. 98-lb 11yo hitting the ball 300-feet, multiple times?
  2. 95-pounder hitting their first dinger over 270-feet? (this is actually the brother of the above hitter but 2 years younger)
  3. 115-lb 11yo not only hitting the ball 300-feet multiple times, but hitting over 40 homers in one season…to ALL fields?
  4. 66-lb 11yo hitting the ball over 180-feet? OR,
  5. a 115-lb 13yo hitting the ball 330-feet?

The video below is of my hitter #1 above hitting his 300-foot monster shot.  Please note, he was playing on a field in Manteca, CA that had 315-foot fences, so the ‘shot’ was a long double, not a homerun.  Dad played baseball at Division-1 Chico State in the late-90’s, and shared the batted ball’s estimated distance, in the following text message to me:

“This is Orin hitting the farthest ball he’s ever hit.  It landed a couple feet short of the warning track in Manteca, which is right around 300-feet away”.

If you aren’t achieving these types of outcomes with your hitters, then I fear that you should rethink the effectiveness of YOUR hitting system.

Differences Between Two Swings?

Now, before getting into the differences between fastpitch softball hitting mechanics and baseball…

It should be pointed out,

That I’ve spent 10+ years in the corrective fitness industry with too many certifications to count.  I’m self taught and have a passionate curiosity for the science of human movement, by people such as:

  • Dr. Kelly Starrett,
  • Thomas Myers,
  • Ida Rolf,
  • Dr. Erik Dalton,
  • Dr. Serge Gracovetsky, and
  • Many others…

And it’s interesting to note, that I learned more about the swing from the aforementioned people, than in all 17 years of my baseball playing career, the last four of those playing at Division-1 Fresno State!!

The bottom line is this,

There are certain ‘rules’ to human movement that are validated by science.  These “rules” don’t care if you’re male or female…black or white…7 yo or 24 yo…big or small.

THEY WORK FOR ALL HUMANS!!!

The ‘rules’ are like bumpers at a bowling alley.  They’re guidelines to an effective swing.  What happens inside the bumpers doesn’t matter, just as long as you work within them.

Now, on the differences between the two swings…

A friend of mine since High School, made this comment on a Facebook Post of mine:

“As a former baseball player and current fastpitch softball coach. I think hitting a softball at 43ft is harder than hitting a baseball from 60ft. I’m talking about straight fastballs too, special pitches would be difficult for anyone.  My first year coaching softball I had a hard time hitting a pitch. Had to adjust everything I learned from my baseball swing and vision.”

I told him, if he grew up playing fastpitch softball and hitting from the closer distances, he’d be a much better fastpitch softball hitter today!

It’s about collecting data.

The main differences in the two swings are:

  1. Reaction Time (or timing), and
  2. Knee Action.

Reaction Time (or timing)

Getting back to the original reader email, two differences they mentioned:

  1. “…the swing has to take the most direct path to the pitch”,
  2. “…the pitch is generally released at 3 to 4 feet verse a baseball is released at roughly 7″…

Look, the first issue is about reaction time.

Fast-pitch softball hitting mechanics DO NOT call for ‘shorter swings’ than a baseball player.  They have to start their swings sooner!

If we start teaching hitters to ‘swing down on the ball’, be ‘short to it’, or an A to B barrel path, then we set the hitter up for inconsistent productive outcomes.

Why inconsistent productive outcomes?

Because an A to B barrel path is ineffective when looking at it through the lens of validated science:

  • Centripetal v. Centrifugal Forces,
  • Transferring Linear into Angular Momentum, and
  • Inertial Forces changing directions.

Two priority hitting objectives, for ALL hitters, MUST be to:

  1. Get the barrel on the plane of the pitch as early as possible, and
  2. Keep the barrel on plane for as long as possible.

We coaches have to build a large margin for error into the swing, not shorten it.

WHY?

Because of a major dose of uncertainty, hitters don’t know what type of pitch is coming, its speed, or its location beforehand.

By the way, swings can still be compact without an A –> B barrel path.  We MUST be teaching both hitters, more of an A –> B –> C path.  My readers call the latter, the Nike Swoosh barrel path.nike-swoosh-logo

The second reader issue above has to do with the angle of the downward traveling pitch.

And YES, even a softball is traveling down by the time it reaches the hitter, thanks to Gravitational Forces and air density.

As soon as the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand (both fastpitch and baseball), the ball begins slowing down, rotating less, and ultimately falls towards the earth.

Assuming you’re still on earth 😉

Even the “Jenny Finch rise-ball begins to fall 4/5 of way, approx 8 feet away”.

However,

What is clear though, is the down angle of a fastpitch fastball isn’t quite as drastic as a baseball fastball.  A fastpitch fastball just isn’t exposed to Gravitational Forces long enough.

Which is also to say, evidenced in the Sports Science video above, since there’s less distance for the softball to travel, it loses less energy than a baseball will.  So that’s why we see Jennie Finch put a hurtin’ on that force plate!!

If you had the baseball pitcher throw from a distance of 43-foot, I think he’d crush the force plate as well.  Just my thoughts…

So reaction time and the hitter’s barrel attack angle being different,

How does a fastpitch softball hitter manage her barrel attack angle differently than a baseball hitter?

With…

Knee Action

Fastpitch Softball Hitting Mechanics: Lauren Chamberlain

Lauren Chamberlain wide stance, but uses shifting foot pressure and HER KNEES to hit. Photo courtesy: YouTube user Paul Arebalo

In order to compensate for the slight difference in the downward angle of the pitched ball, a hitter should adjust the bending of their knees as follows…

Fastpitch hitter:

  • Front knee at landing should be bent between 160 and 170-degrees (at 180-degrees, the leg is straight) to optimize Ground Reaction Forces, build in margin for error on off-speed and breaking balls, while also not giving up too much on Time To Impact.
  • Back knee at impact should be bent between 105 and 115-degrees to get on path to the bottom half of the ball.

Baseball hitter:

  • Front knee at landing should be bent between 150 and 165-degrees for the same reasons above, but with more access to a longer Time To Impact,
  • Back knee at impact should be bent between 90 and 105-degrees to get on-path to the bottom half of the ball.

The BIG Ask…

I want to make a BIG ASK to those coaches or instructors that are currently working with fastpitch softball hitters using HPL hitting principles.

Please share your triumphs and/or sticking points below…

A Simple Way To Train Pitch Recognition That Works For Collegiate & Pro Hitters

 

The Sixth Tool: Training Baseball Pitch Recognition

Dr. Peter Fadde applies sports science to batting drills focusing on pitch recognition.  He’s a Professor in Learning Systems Design & Technology at Southern Illinois University.

CLICK HERE for a great case study featured in the Baseball Collegiate Newspaper titled, “Pitch Recognition Can Be Done By Hitters”, where Dr. Peter Fadde was asked to consult with Southeast Missouri State hitting coach Dillon Lawson on the subject of pitch recognition with his hitters, in March of 2014.

I heard about Dr. Peter Fadde through a few of my readers who saw him speak at the 2015 ABCA conference (ABCA “Doing Damage at the Plate by Training Pitch Recognition” video above).

Since, I’ve read his ebook The 6th Tool: Training Baseball Pitch Recognition” in less than an hour, corresponded with him via email, and felt it a MUST to put together an interview with him sharing his insights with you.

(NOTE: if you purchase his ebook, and after reading it you like what he has to say, PLEASE leave him a review on Amazon.)

You can see the presentations he’s done, recognition he’s earned, and his current work at his website:

http://peterfadde.com/

Here are some other places you can find him online:

By the way, the pitch recognition hitting drills that Dr. Peter Fadde proposes in The 6th Tool book link above, work well with both baseball and softball hitters at ALL levels, not just at the collegiate and pro levels.

Also, Dr. Peter Fadde is one of the experts in the area of vision, tracking, and timing that has contributed videos to the Reaction Time Mastery online video course.

Without further adieu, here’s the interview… (rhyme intended 😉 )

 

What are some great drills to practice vision/tracking?

Pitch Recognition: Dr. Peter Fadde

Dr. Peter Fadde meet my readers, readers meet Dr. Peter Fadde 🙂

What I focus on for Pitch Recognition (PR) is separate from vision skills (peripheral vision, dynamic tracking acuity) and tracking.

Sports science calls it a “perceptual-cognitive” skill, meaning that it is vision-based but a mental skill. It’s picking up cues in the pitcher’s wind-up, release, and the first 10-20 feet of ball flight. By picking up advance cues, expert hitters anticipate pitch movement earlier.

The best drill for practicing PR is Bullpen Stand-In Drill. Batters have been standing in forever. The difference here is the batter needs to call out loud “Yes” or “No” BEFORE THE BALL HITS THE CATCHER’S MITT. That’s what turns it from passive tracking to PR practice.

You need to recognize the pitch right out of the pitcher’s hand to get your call made in time. “Yes” can stand for a pitch type (usually Fastball), or for FB in Zone, or Strike, or Swing Ahead in Count — whatever a coach or hitter wants to work on.

Call LOUD so that it is good feedback for pitchers. Bullpen Stand-In Drill is one of six PR drills shown in the “The 6th Tool” eBook.

 

How do you teach kids to pick up the seams and stay balanced on off-speed pitches?

Kids should practice calling breaking pitches out of the pitcher’s hand, so that they recognize that most curve balls need to “pop up” out of the pitcher’s hand in order to come down in the strike zone. Their eyes and natural tracking want to give up on that pitch. Learning to see it early and plan to attack it should keep mechanics sound.

 

How do you use vision drills for high school hitters?

A high school hitter can learn the PR drills in the Sixth Tool eBook and then teach a parent or coach as a hitting facility for one-on-one drills. I also have several occlusion videos of High School and College pitchers that are available to coaches or players who get the eBook and email me.

How can I get my players to recognize which curveball is the right one to hit and which one to take?

Wade Boggs said he could feel his eyes bob up in his head for the hanging curveball. Every batter can use his own clues. The point is to TRAIN yourself not to give up on that pitch. Few high school pitchers can throw a tight enough curveball to have it come out flat and not drop below the strike zone. Learn to jump on that pop up curve rather than giving up on it.

 

What’s an easy way to explain the concept of vision,tracking, timing a pitch?

Without trying to make things more difficult, I am adding PR as another dimension to Vision and Tracking. The good news is that a batter can get better by improving any or all of the three. A good program includes all three.

 

What keys does a batter use for tracking the ball prior to the pitch and on the release?

Especially at high school level or lower, pitchers often give pre-release cues. I don’t mean pitch tipping things, like glove position. More like learning to “feel” the pitcher muscling up for his fastball, or throwing up hill for a curve. At release, some batters pick up “skinny wrist” for curveball. Some batters pickup more white or less thrust out of the pitcher’s hand for changeup.

 

How can I concentrate better and see “the ball hit the bat”?

The science suggests that hitters don’t see the ball hit the bat. Ted Williams said that, contrary to opinion, he did not see the ball hit the bat. “But a master carpenter doesn’t need to see the nail to hit it square every time.”

Concentrate on seeing the pitcher’s motion and release. These aren’t natural and so need direct practice. Tracking to (or near) contact is natural so needs less direct practice. Good PR approach and sound mechanics should generate plenty of good contact.

Again, Dr. Peter Fadde can be reached at the following places online: